By Joel Hall
By this summer, the City of Forest Park expects to begin the first of a two-phase redevelopment project.
At the end of next week, the city will tie up several loose ends of its Main Street redevelopment effort. The acquisition of rights of way is almost complete, and discussions with Georgia Power about burying utility lines are well underway.
The two-phase project will include a series of aesthetic and pedestrian improvements along the Main Street corridor, including landscaping improvements and the addition of crosswalks, brick sidewalks, and decorative pedestrian lighting. It also will include removing many of the city's old, wooden electrical posts and placing utilities lines underground.
Phase 1 will take place between North Oak Street and the realignment of College, North Ash, and Main Streets. Phase 2 will continue along Main Street from the College, North Ash, and Main Street realignment to Jonesboro Road (Highway 54).
City Manager John Parker said the Main Street project -- a development which should have taken a year and a half from start to finish -- has been in the works for "four to five" years, due to changes in state regulations concerning construction easements.
"State laws and state regulations with the Georgia DOT [Department of Transportation] are constantly evolving," said Parker. "Right now, I'm happy with where we are. I think we can push things along and make this happen."
A major hurdle to construction has been obtaining rights of way, said Angela Redding, management analysts for the city.
New GDOT regulations require that: All property owners along the corridor must be contacted personally; a certified appraiser must assess all properties for fair market value, and the city must offer tenants some kind of compensation to atone for lost revenue during construction.
"There were 25 property owners that we had to get temporary construction easements for," said Redding. "It's taken about three months because you have some property owners who don't live in Clayton County or Forest Park." She said the process requires a lot of paperwork, all of which has to be signed by individual property owners.
"We have two more property owners to meet next week," said Redding. After all the property owners give their consent, the city will submit the information to GDOT, after which, GDOT will give a notice to begin construction.
Redding said the project has been met with "overwhelming approval" from local tenants, who believe it will increase the visual quality of the area and improve property values.
"People have been asking for years for us to do something about Main Street, so they have been pleased with what we are presenting," said Redding. "They know that this is a step in the right direction."
"Having to contact all of the property owners and getting them to come here and take care of the paperwork ... that turned out to be some kind of chore," said Parker. However, "We're hoping that we can have Phase 1 completed by Thanksgiving."